Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Best Paddle of the year.

The best paddle of the year for me was a Friday back in June. Carleen had planned the paddle as I recall but only Tim, Eric, Bob H and I showed up. It was a perfect paddle in so many ways. First, it was a vacation day for me. Others had more flagitious excuses. Then there was the weather. Sunny, just the right temperature, wind and swell. There was the company we keep. The four of us make kind of a rag tag bunch with so many differences. Yet I think we all revel in the comradery of the paddle and our love of little challenges without the pressure of competition. In a group of four each person really is looking out for the other three. A concept we needed once and were hair-trigger ready to utilize a second time.

We had a late start waiting for Carleen but we were all very relaxed and maybe not uber-timely ourselves. We paddled from the boat ramp in Westport out through the mouth of the river. From there we headed South-West into the wind and swell. The miles added up steadily as we made our way by Elephant Rock and South Shore to the large rocks off Briggs Beach in the shadow of Warren’s Point. Before Lunch I made good on my commitment to do some practice rolling “even when I didn’t really want to”. (I think this was my first paddle without a wetsuit and I’m not a big fan of having to bail out in anything but bathtub water.) The rolls were nearly effortless. That made lunch all the more enjoyable.

After lunch we were a bit more frisky and Bob and Eric poked about in spots where the swells were standing up a bit. Mysteriously Bob was suddenly upside down. Eric went in quickly to get him into his boat. I saw that they were precariously close to a rock so followed in and hooked up to tow them clear of the rock. Tim kept watch to make sure everything went well. I imagine that he was happy to see how things played out but too humble to realize that it was his tutelage that made it all possible.

With a few more miles under our boats it was Eric’s turn. He got caught up in a growler and started surfing towards a rock. Somehow he managed to get the wave to pass under him and I distinctly remember seeing him slide down the backside of the wave sidewise and out of imminent danger. I also distinctly remember seeing him put his paddle into high gear and boogie out of the area. Once Eric was clear of the danger it was easy to do a little teasing. Kind of the way three guys say “nice job” to the fourth.

We of course were in no rush to finish up so we did some rock gardening outside of the Knubble. On the way into the harbor we toyed with some standing waves that form in the fast moving current. It was just a wonderful day on the water. Relaxing, punctuated with some excitement, yet nobody hurt. Just the way I like it!


Monday, November 13, 2006

2006 Superlatives

I’ve managed to get out at least once a month for almost 2 years now. Averaging somewhere near 2 paddles every three weeks over the last year. There is not one paddle that I didn’t enjoy. Some, however, were better than others. This is my list of all the paddles I can remember from 2006 more or less in order and the superlative I associate with each. Thanks to all the leaders and paddling friends for helping to make this a truly enjoyable year on the water.

URI/Bonnet: Rescue adventure
Fogland: Thanksgiving paddle
Jamestown: Drysuit tour of Newport
BayCampus: Soap opera paddle
Hope Island: Most pleasant weather
Barking Crab: best of three tries
Westport/Potluck: Best post paddle entertainment
URI/Bonnet: Backward surfing
Isle of Shoals: Most open water AND Most sleepy!
Delaware Water Gap: Eagles and Bears
Monomy: Seals and Rescue
Boston Harbor 2: Kayak Camping
Narragansett Town Beach Surfing: Most frustrating (but still fun)
Colt State Park: Most exciting 2 paddle since my first RICKA 2
Fort Wetherhill/Joe: breakaway group
Barn Island: Fiddle Faddle Paddle
Boston Harbor 1: Gilligan’s big adventure
Prudence: Marianne’s Adventure
Bungay River: This was supposed to clean the kayaks?
Westport River P&M: A great start to paddling
Wed Paddle/Carole,Eric,Paul: paddle to nowhere (OK, Whale Rock)
Gould Island: Christy’s addiction… Ice-Cream
Slocum River: Pretty but not enough adventure
Bay Campus: Sick of the rain paddle
Westport/Tim,Bob,Eric,Paul: BEST PADDLE OF YEAR!
Gooseberry Neck: Welcome Becka and the building surf
Wickford Spring Paddle: Naturalist Ray
Wickford Town Beach/Tony,Carole,Paul: Best Stories
Ft Getty/Tony and Paul: Most pleasant winter paddle
Ft Wetherhill/Tony and Paul: Why was I out on such a windy cold day?
Various Cochituit and Whitehall Practices: Just great to be on the water.
Lake Chauncey Solo Rolling Practices: Most Determined practices
Rolling Clinic: Most confidence building.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A summer day in November

Friday November 10th, mostly sunny, temperatures in the mid sixties, Narragansett Bay, kayaking. Is Paul writing fiction now? Nope. It was forecast early in the week and by mid week I was making plans. Strangely, there didn’t seem to be too much interest so by Thursday evening I had given up on the paddle. But a call by Heather and a weakness in Tim had us back on the water Friday morning. We were joined by Lisa, Rich, and Joe at the Wilson Park launch with intention of paddling to Hope Island.

We were on the water at 10AM just as planned. There was a moderate breeze out of the Northwest. The weather was warm enough that I opted to wear the wetsuit instead of the drysuit. I find it difficult to keep cool in the drysuit with warm air and sun. It was packed in the boat however. I’m sure I would have put it on as soon as I reached land had I gone over for some reason.

We had an easy paddle out of the Harbor. Joe regaled us with the history of Wickford fish pressing factories, distressed yachts, and lighthouses. I think most of what Joe said was true. This is in sharp contrast to Ray, our naturalist guide this spring. Ray was however, much more funny!

We became exposed to the wind as we rounded Quonset point. This initiated the predictable sequence of adjusting and un-sticking skegs. We adjusted our apparent heading so that we’d pass just south of Hope and paddle around in the lee of the island to our lunch spot.

As we approached the island we were surprised in an odd sort of way by the brown vegetation. The day was like a late spring paddle and the expectation was green and lush. But it was November. I had to keep reminding myself about that.

We landed on a coarse sand beach on the North east corner. It was still before 12 as we landed so we snacked on a cookie and explored the island on foot. There were plenty of poison ivy branches sans leaves bounding the path, a decaying paved road of military use from days past. Before long the path was obscured by overgrowth and we headed back to the beach.

We sat on a rock facing south east with the sun warming us and the breeze blocked by the land. It was wonderfully warm and relaxing. Tim described the view as the “best view of the bay”. We discovered that we had been attacked by tribble-burrs while exploring. I was befriended by a yellow jacket that passively licked the jelly off my thumb and toured my arm. When the contagious “get up from lunch” happened we headed over to the boats. But we quickly found ourselves lying on some more rocks in the sun telling still more stories. It took discipline not to call Eric or Carole and tell them how nice it was. The only miscalculation I can think of was Tim’s failure to pack the Kelly Kettle!

We all got back in our boats and rounded the north side of the island. Tim and I stayed very close to the rocky shore to play in the zone where the waves were interacting with the reflected waves. Hope Island is a significant distance up the bay so it’s the best fun we could find.
The paddle back was uneventful. We had a few periods of paddling six abreast which I find kind of cool. Kind of like “The Mod Squad” times two. The group took a break in the shadow of Quonset. Tim decided he wanted to do some power paddling to warm up for some rolling and sculling back at the launch. The rest of us just sat and drifted wishing the day would never end. In fact we sat so long that Tim thought something might have happened to us.

Boat traffic was of course low on the bay. But somehow a rude fishing boat felt obliged to pass behind Lisa and I at half throttle sending a large wake our way. Presumably he thought we wanted to surf through the break wall, @#&^%.

Back at the ramp Joe was packing quickly to get through Providence before the traffic (it was a Friday afternoon after all). The others were moving at a more leisurely pace. Tim was still in the water rolling left and right in the cold water. I was game for some bracing and sculling but my choice of the wetsuit and Tim’s description of the feeling of cold water on his inner ear kept me within 90 degrees of vertical.

While loading the boats I broke out some lemon cakes that Lisa had picked up at the Seven Stars Bakery on Hope Street in PVD. http://www.sevenstarsbakery.com/ They were phenomenal. I’ve never had a “cake” that melted in your mouth the way these did.
When the boats were packed we wandered off to Wickford Gourmet Foods for coffee. Carole joined us there and allowed us to tell the stories of the day with our glowing sunburned faces. And finally we went for sushi and dinner at Seven Moons. 11/10/06